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A Christmas prayer

Father, we stand in awe of what we celebrate. How can it be that the all-sufficient God of the universe became a helpless child resting in a feed trough?

mary_joseph_jesus_mangerHow can it be that the divine Word reduced Himself to unintelligible sounds?

How can it be that the hands that once sculpted mountain ranges, now made flesh, reach to grab hold of a loving mother’s finger?

We don’t know. Yet it happened. Jesus came, the visible expression of the invisible God, to bring God to us and us to God.

The darkness of this world at times seems overwhelming, but in midst of the darkness we again see the Light of Christmas — the Light that cannot be overcome.

Before Him, we bow down and worship.

The prayer above is adapted from the first chapter of Ken Gire’s 1989 book, Intimate Moments with the Savior (Zondervan).

Editor’s note: In 1996, I had the privilege of recording a portion of Ken Gire’s retelling of the nativity story for a nationally syndicated radio program. The piece was produced by Duane Harms, now of i5810 Media. To listen, use the audio player below (4 minutes). — jms

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A group of more than 70 United Methodist clergy and laity is asking the Council of Bishops to censure retired Bishop Melvin Talbert for encouraging UM clergy to disobey the Book of Discipline’s prohibition on officiating at homosexual-union ceremonies.

The request came in a July 19 open letter (reproduced below) sent to each bishop. That letter was released publicly last week.

Bishop Talbert speaking in May in Tampa, Fla.

The Discipline notes that sexual relationships between two people of the same sex are “incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F) and it prohibits clergy from officiating at union ceremonies that solemnize a relationship between two men or two women (¶2702.1).

At a May 4, 2012, gathering in Tampa, Fla., held on the final day of the United Methodist Church’s quadrennial General Conference, Bishop Talbert said existing UM standards on human sexuality are “immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience.” His remarks came two days after the General Conference voted to maintain the UMC’s long-held position on homosexuality.

Bishop Talbert urged clergy who had previously committed to perform union ceremonies for homosexual couples “to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages among…same-sex couples.” Doing so, he noted, would involve “defying the [church] laws that prohibit them from doing so.” He also called on local UM churches to host such ceremonies, an action also proscribed by the UMC’s Book of Discipline.

Although 14 other UM bishops were in attendance as he spoke, Bishop Talbert said he was not speaking on their behalf or as a representative of the Council of Bishops.

The July 19 letter asking that Bishop Talbert be censured is below, along with audio of Bishop Talbert’s May 4 address. Some links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.

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July 19, 2012

Dear Bishop ________________ ,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! We uphold you in our prayers for the important work that God has entrusted to you on behalf of His church.

We are compelled to write this open letter to you out of deep love for The United Methodist Church. Our unity is once more challenged by the remarks of one of your number and we ask that you take appropriate action to respond.

According to the websites of Methodists In New Directions and the Reconciling Ministries Network, Bishop Melvin Talbert made the following comments on May 4, 2012, at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle in Tampa, Florida:

The derogatory rules and restrictions in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience. Thus the time has come for those of us who are faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to do what is required of us….

The time has come to join in an act of Biblical obedience. I call on the more than 1,100 clergy [who have signed marriage initiatives] to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages for same-sex couples and to do so in the course of their normal pastoral duties, thus defying the laws that prohibit them from doing so….

The time for talking is over. It’s time for us to act in defiance of unjust words of immoral and derogatory discrimination and laws that are doing harm to our GLBT [gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered] sisters and brothers.

The Reconciling Ministries Network reports that standing with Bishop Talbert were retired Bishops Judy Craig, Violet Fisher, Elias Galvan, Susan Hassinger, Don Ott, Sharon Rader, Roy Sano, and Jack Tuell; and active Bishops Warner Brown, Sally Dyck, Grant Hagiya, Bob Hoshibata, John Schol, and Mary Ann Swenson.

Each bishop of The United Methodist Church has agreed to live within the covenant defined by our Book of Discipline. Each bishop is charged in the Book of Discipline “to uphold the discipline and order of the Church.”

Use the audio player below to listen to Bishop Talbert’s May 4 address in Tampa:

(If player doesn’t work, click here for mp3.)

We are deeply concerned that Bishop Talbert has undercut that very discipline and order, by encouraging dissension, disunity and disobedience, and advocating anarchy and chaos in response to the actions of the 2012 General Conference, taken after focused prayer, study, and holy conferencing.

Sadly, Bishop Talbert reiterated his call for UM pastors to disobey the Book of Discipline and pledged to do so himself, if given the opportunity, when he preached at the ordination service [PDF] on June 16 at the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

Some of the other bishops who stood nearby as Bishop Talbert spoke in Tampa on May 4, 2012

By their action in standing with Bishop Talbert as he made his statement at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle, the other bishops appear to have lent their credibility and influence to his call for disobedience.

We have corresponded with all the bishops who stood with Bishop Talbert and received replies from most of them. Some did not know ahead of time what Bishop Talbert was going to say and do not support his call for disobedience. Others did know and do support that call. Without a public statement clarifying where those bishops stand, however, it appears to our church that all were supportive.

In its November 10, 2011 letter [PDF] to United Methodist Sisters and Brothers in Christ, this Council of Bishops declared:

At times like these we call upon each other to remember and renew our covenant with God and with one another as United Methodist Christians. As bishops chosen, consecrated and assigned by the Church, we declare once again our commitment to be faithful to this covenant we have made. As the Council of Bishops we will uphold the Book of Discipline as established by General Conference.

The actions of Bishop Talbert specifically, and any of those retired and active bishops who stood with him, knowing what he was prepared to say, directly contravene this commitment made by the Council of Bishops as a whole. We commend the commitment of the Council of Bishops to be intentional in holding one another mutually accountable to the office and responsibilities of bishops as outlined in our Book of Discipline.

Now is the time for you to demonstrate your commitment by acting to hold these who have been disobedient to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church accountable for their inflammatory actions. We ask that:

  • the executive committee of the Council of Bishops and the colleges of bishops in the various jurisdictional and central conferences when they next meet publicly censure Bishop Talbert for his statement;
  • the executive committee of the Council of Bishops request that those retired and active bishops who stood with Bishop Talbert as he called for disobedience to the Book of Discipline issue specific statements repudiating Bishop Talbert’s call to perform same-sex unions, and should they fail to do so, publicly censure them for their actions;
  • the executive committee of the Council of Bishops file a formal complaint against Bishop Melvin Talbert under ¶ 2702 (e) [disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church in violating his responsibility to uphold that order and discipline], ¶ 2702 (f) [dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church], and ¶ 2702 (g) [engaging in behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor].

We acknowledge that these are challenging days in The United Methodist Church. We affirm our commitment to the Book of Discipline, including its statement “that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.”

We fully support the Discipline’s affirmation [in ¶ 161F] “that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”

We will continue to uphold you in prayer. We will continue to work together to preserve the unity and integrity of The United Methodist Church, and to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

We look forward to the actions you will take in response to this open letter.

Yours in Christ,

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The Rev. Ed Robb III, The Woodlands UMC, The Woodlands, Texas
The Rev. Thom Abrahamson, Armona UMC & Lemoore UMC, Lemoore, Calif.
The Rev. John Allen, Flower Mound Trietsch Memorial UMC, Flower Mound, Texas
The Rev. Scott Allred, Aldersgate UMC, Chico, Calif.
Turner Arant, Confessing Movement Board, Sunflower, Miss.
The Rev. Larry Baird, Trinity UMC, President of Confessing Movement Board, Grand Island, N.Y.
The Rev. Richard Bayard, Retired Elder, Visalia, Calif.
The Rev. Bill Bouknight, Associate Director, Confessing Movement, Columbia, S.C.
The Rev. Keith Boyette, Wilderness Community UMC, Chair of Good News Board, Spotsylvania, Va.
The Rev. James Buskirk, Confessing Movement Board, Tulsa, Okla.
The Rev. Riley Case, Associate Director, Confessing Movement, Kokomo, Ind.
The Rev. Bryan Collier, The Orchard UMC, Tupelo, Miss.
The Rev. Robert Collins, Jr., Centenary UMC, Modesto, Calif.
Robert Draper, Good News Board, Hot Springs, Ark.
The Rev. Maxie Dunnam, Confessing Movement Board, Memphis, Tenn.
Mickey Ellis, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Charles Ferrara, New Life Community Church UMC, New Fairfield, Conn.
The Rev. Scott Field, Wheatland Salem UMC, Good News Board, Naperville, Ill.
The Rev. John Gerlach, Trinity UMC, Windsor, Conn.
The Rev. Robert Gorrell, Church of the Servant, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Judy Graham, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Ronald Greilich, Elder, Retired, Clovis, Calif.
The Rev. John Grenfell, Jr., Good News Board, Fort Gratiot, Mich.
The Rev. Randall Hageman, Gateway Community UM Congregation, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Rick Hanse, West Hartford UMC, West Hartford, Conn.
The Rev. Chet Harris, Dueber UMC, Canton, Ohio
The Rev. Tom Harrison, Asbury UMC, Tulsa, Okla.
The Rev. Matthew Hartsfield, Van Dyke UMC, Tampa, Fla.
The Rev. Tony Holifield, Central UMC, Fayetteville, Ark.
The Rev. Godfrey Hubert, Foundry UMC, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Kent Jackson, Branford UMC, Branford, Conn.
Tom Junk, Confessing Movement Board, Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Kilpatrick, Confessing Movement Board, Tucker, Ga.
The Rev. Chong IL Kim, Bible UMC of New York, Dix Hills, N.Y.
Katy Kiser, Good News Board, Carrollton, Texas
The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, Vice President, Good News, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Charles Kyker, Christ UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Hickory, N.C.
The Rev. James Leggett, Grace Fellowship UMC, Katy, Texas
The Rev. Kenneth Levingston, Jones Memorial UMC, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Joseph MacLaren, University Carillon UMC, Oviedo, Fla.
The Rev. David Mantz, First UMC, Port Jefferson, N.Y.
The Rev. Jim Martin, The River UMC, Richmond, Texas
The Rev. John Ed Mathison, Confessing Movement Board, Montgomery, Ala.
The Rev. Gregory McGarvey, Carmel UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Carmel, Ind.
The Rev. Randell Mickler, Mt. Bethel UMC, Marietta, Ga.
Dan Moore, Confessing Movement Board, Martinsville, Ind.
The Rev. Delroy Murdock, St. Paul’s UMC, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Norman Neel, Good News Board, San Augustine, Texas
The Rev. Allen Newton, St. James UMC, Montgomery, Ala.
The Rev. Randy Paige, Christ Church United Methodist, Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.
The Rev. James Presig, Lee’s Summit UMC, Lee’s Summit, Mo.
The Rev. Glen Raley, First UMC, Marysville, Calif.
The Rev. Robert Renfroe, The Woodlands UMC President of Good News, The Woodlands, Texas
Donna Schlitt, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Mike Schreiner, Morning Star Church, O’Fallon, Mo.
Donald Shell, Good News Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Dan Slagle, FaithBridge Church, Good News Board, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Ralph Sigler, Harvest Church UM, Dothan, Ala.
The Rev. Roger Spahr, Cornerstone Church, Watertown, S.D.
David Stanley, Confessing Movement Board, Muscatine, Iowa
Helen Rhea Stumbo, Good News Board, Fort Valley, Ga.
The Rev. Jeff Switzer, Sandtown UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Sandtown, Miss.
The Rev. Alpher Sylvester, Bethany UMC, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Rev. Richard Thompson, First UMC, Good News Board, Bakersfield, Calif.
The Rev. Robert Thompson-Gee, Poughkeepsie UMC, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The Rev. Doug Thrasher, Hillside UMC, Woodstock, Ga.
The Rev. Robert Tindale, Killearn UMC, Tallahassee, Fla.
The Rev. Kirt Watkins, Sea Cliff UMC, Sea Cliff, N.Y.
The Rev. Stephen Wende, First UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Ken Werlein, FaithBridge Church, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Alice Wolfe, Christ UMC, Baltimore, Ohio
The Rev. Steve Wood, Mount Pisgah UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Alpharetta, Ga.
Marianne Wright, Good News Board, Valdosta, Ga.
The Rev. Harold Zimmick, Asbury UMC, Madison, Wis.


Related posts
Chasing away young people by being faithful to the gospel?
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
General Conference 2012: More attempts to change UM standards on sexual behavior
If defiance continues, United Methodism may come crashing down
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church
Outcome of DeLong trial likely to exacerbate disunity of UMC
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Pro-homosexuality foundation pours millions into Catholic and mainline Protestant dissident groups
Breaking the covenant: Why aren’t ‘Reconciling’ churches being held to account?
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Board of Church and Society sex-ed writer: Sex outside of marriage can be ‘moral, ethical’
In Mississippi Conference, testimony from lesbian couple stirs controversy
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’

Related articles and information
Bishop accused of urging disobedience | Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service (Aug. 24, 2012)
United Methodists uphold policy that calls homosexual acts ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (May 3, 2012)
The church addresses marriage and sexuality | Thomas A. Lambrecht, Good News (January/February 2012)
Outsider influence over homosexuality at General Conference | Karen Booth, Good News (January/February 2012)
Book Review: Forgetting How To Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution by Karen Booth | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (March/April 2012)
UM clergy vow to wed homosexual couples | Sam Hodges, UM Reporter (July 15, 2011)
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Book: Staying the Course: Supporting the Church’s Position on Homosexuality (ordering details) | Maxie Dunnam and H. Newton Malony, ed. (Abingdon Press, 2003)
Anyone who works under the authority or auspices of the Church must be held to the highest standards of behavior, free of misconduct in any form | UMSexualEthics.org
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
UM Judicial Council backs clergy dismissal over affair | Linda Bloom, UMNS (April 27, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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Mark Tooley

Mark Tooley, author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church (Bristol House, 2010) discussed the UMC’s 2012 General Conference in an interview Tuesday on Issues Etc., a daily program produced by Lutheran Public Radio.

You can listen to the 10-minute conversation below. (If the audio player doesn’t work, use this mp3 file.)

Mark Tooley is the president of the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981 by United Methodists Ed Robb and David Jessup.

IRD describes itself as “an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.”

Tooley was named president of the organization in 2009.

Mark Tooley’s writings have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Frontpage, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, Touchstone, and The Washington Times.

His second book, Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Bristol House) was released earlier this year.


Related posts
Podcast: Mark Tooley, author of ‘Taking Back the United Methodist Church’
Mark Tooley profiled in WORLD magazine
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Deeper Issues of Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
Same-Sex Marriage for United Methodists? | Mark Tooley, The American Spectator (June 27, 2011)
Mark Tooley discusses the Wisconsin Conference church trial of Amy DeLong | Issues Etc., Lutheran Public Radio (June 24, 2011)
Mere-O Interview: Mark Tooley | Mere Orthodoxy (March 14, 2011)
United Methodist ‘Call to Action’ finds 15% of UM churches highly ‘vital’ | Mark Tooley, UMAction—IRD (July 17, 2010)
Wesleyan surge: A review of Taking Back the United Methodist Church | William Murchison, Touchstone (May/June, 2010)
Mark Tooley Remarks to the IRD Board (March 14, 2010)
From CIA to IRD: Advocate Mark Tooley knows that ‘God often has surprises for us’ | WORLD (Oct. 10, 2009)
A conversation with Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy | The King’s College (New York City) Distinguished Visitor Series (Sept. 9, 2009)
Review: Taking Back The United Methodist Church (2008 ed.) | Ray Nothstine, Acton Institute Power Blog (April 10, 2008)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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Whatever benefits a restructuring The United Methodist Church may bring, it will not result in the UMC becoming more effective in its stated mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, according to Rob Renfroe, the president of Good News, the oldest and largest renewal ministry within United Methodism.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

In a radio interview that aired April 21, Renfroe said that to increase effectiveness, the UMC needs more “spiritually impassioned, Christ-centered…leaders [who will] speak to us about a lost world and a gospel that saves people.”

The interview aired on the The World and Everything in It, a weekly radio program produced by WORLD News Group, the organization that publishes WORLD Magazine.

On the topic of repeated legislative attempts to alter The United Methodist Church’s doctrine on human sexuality, Renfroe said the church’s ministry to people suffering “sexual brokenness” would be undermined if the General Conference opts to affirm sexual relations between people of the same sex.

“Once we decide that homosexuality…is a good gift of God that deserves to be blessed, we have in that moment abdicated the healing ministry of the church,” he said.

Use the audio player below to listen to the six-minute conversation with Rob Renfroe. If the audio player doesn’t work, use this mp3 file.

(NOTE: The interview with Rob Renfroe follows a brief segment on the the recent legal settlement between the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and Truro Anglican Church. Truro broke from The Episcopal Church in early 2007 over concerns related to biblical fidelity.)

Rob Renfroe has served as the president of Good News — and the publisher of Good News magazine — since 2009. He is also the pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas.

From 2007-2009, he served as president of the board of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.


Related posts
Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?
UMC restructuring: Power shifts, turf battles and trust
Bishop Mack Stokes: Holiness in human sexuality
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Truth About God’
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Deeper Issues of Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’

Related articles and information
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
Compromising positions | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May-June 2011)
What do United Methodists expect from their bishops? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
In pursuit of truth | Rob Renfroe, Good News (January/February 2011)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth (video) | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel (April 13, 2010)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
For the cause of Christ (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May/June 2009)
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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Steve Hawthorne, director of the prayer ministry Waymakers, offers interesting insights about the event we call Palm Sunday, which this year is celebrated on April 1.

He notes that in the days leading up to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus had “instigated a movement of hope throughout the towns and villages of the entire region” as He performed miracles and answered prayers.

triumphal-entry-jesusofnazarethBy the time He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of praise, “the whole city was stirred and [people] asked ‘Who is this?'” (Matt. 21:20).

For several days after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus taught at the temple, and “all the people hung on his words” (Luke 19:48).

By the end of the week, of course, the Lord’s adversaries had him arrested and crucified. But Scripture says the arrest occurred during the dark of the night, “because [Jesus’ enemies] were afraid of the people” (Luke 22:2).

In his Lenten-season prayer guide, Seek God for the City, Hawthorne notes:

1) “Palm Sunday shines as prophetic picture of the spiritual awakening Christ desires to bring [in communities everywhere]”; and

2) “Whenever there has been revival, it has been a partial fulfillment of the promise of Palm Sunday.”

To help pastors, Sunday School teachers, and small-group leaders explain the significance of Palm Sunday, Waymakers has posted background information here, along with three sermon suggestions.

Use the audio player below to listen to a 12-minute excerpt of Steve Hawthorne teaching about Palm Sunday and Holy Week. He was recorded in 2008 at Christ Church in Austin, Texas, a congregation associated with the Anglican Church in North America. (Player won’t work? Click here.)

Steve Hawthorne holds a Masters degree from the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. With Graham Kendrick, he is the co-author of Prayerwalking: Praying On-Site with Insight.

A Palm Sunday prayer: “Father, we pray for spiritual awakening and shouts of praise here, as Jesus enters our city with His presence and power. Stir people to ask, ‘Who is this?’ — that we might proclaim to them the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.”


Related resources
Background information about Palm Sunday, plus three Palm Sunday sermon suggestions | Waymakers
A Service of Prayer, Scripture and Song for Holy Week | United Methodist General Board of Discipleship

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March 2, 1791: Methodist founder John Wesley dies in London at age 87. At his death, the Methodist movement had 294 preachers and 71,668 members in Britain, plus 198 preachers and 43,265 members in America. Today Methodists number about 30 million worldwide.

Among Mr. Wesley’s last words: “I’ll praise my maker” and “The best of all, God is with us.”

Use the player below to listen to a 1950s-era radio dramatization of Mr. Wesley’s final moments, with actor Miron Canaday as John Wesley. (An mp3 CD of the 30-part radio series, “A Brand from the Burning: The Story of John Wesley,” is available from Moody Audio. Order here.)
Charles Finney

Charles Finney

March 9, 1831: Evangelist Charles Finney concludes a six-month series of meetings in Rochester, New York.

The meetings, often called “the world’s greatest single revival campaign,” led to the closing of the town’s theater and taverns, a two-thirds drop in crime, and a reported 100,000 conversions.

March 10, 1748: John Newton, captain of a slave ship, is converted to Christianity during a huge storm at sea. He eventually became an Anglican clergyman and the author of the famous hymn, Amazing Grace.

March 10, 1880: Commissioner George S. Railton and seven women arrive in New York City to establish the Salvation Army in the United States.

Francis Asbury

Francis Asbury

March 21, 1778: Charles Wesley, brother of John and author of 8,989 hymns (including Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, and Christ the Lord Is Risen Today), dies at age 81.

March 31, 1816: Pioneer Methodist bishop Francis Asbury dies at age 71. During his 45-year ministry in America (he was sent here in 1771 by John Wesley), he traveled on horseback or in carriage an estimated 300,000 miles, delivering some 16,500 sermons.

A biography of Asbury was released in 2009, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists (Oxford University Press).

Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.


Related posts
January in Christian History
February in Christian History

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With a goal of fostering “flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ,” the Fellowship of Presbyterians, a group of more than 500 theologically conservative congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has unveiled a new “denominational entity”: the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). The official unveiling occurred at a Jan. 18-20 Covenanting Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The new entity will work with like-minded congregations that decide to remain part of the PC(USA) or choose to cut ties with the older denomination.

“The Fellowship offers three different options for affiliation so congregations can pursue what best honors their ministry context,” according to a news release (PDF) from the Fellowship of Presbyterians.

“The options are: affiliate with the Fellowship as a ministry association (involves no change in status with the PC(USA)); pursue a union membership with the PC(USA) and ECO; and join ECO as full members (requiring dismissal from the PC(USA)),” the release said.

In an address introducing ECO, the Rev. John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, said the new denomination was created to help local churches become more effective in making disciples.

You all know what has been going on in mainline denominations, including our own — shrinking memberships and fading churches and aging clergy and lessening evangelism and a preoccupation with survival and internal strife and external irrelevance.

And it is not just theological drift….

[But w]hat if God were to raise up a movement? What if [the] torch for a thoughtful, reflective, urgent, egalitarian, globally active, culturally engaged, Jesus-centered, evangelical faith [were to be] wed with courageous, innovative, bold, risk-taking, bold entrepreneurial ministry leadership? And the torch of this faith were to burn more brightly in this generation than in the last one?

John Ortberg

We’re not talking about a safe, easy, reassuring step from one denomination to another as a way of expressing denominational displeasure….

Purity by separation has been tried before. If the new entity that we talking about is only that, it will just deteriorate a little more slowly….

[But i]magine God were to launch a movement of Spirit-led, Jesus-centered churches where pastors and leaders took seriously the biblical injunction to become teachers of the nations, so that our world and culture could hear in Him that there is such a thing as moral and spiritual knowledge that can guide human lives….

Imagine that the claims of Jesus were to receive a fresh hearing our day because they were being expressed in thoughtful, winsome, non-churchy, literate ways by Jesus followers who had wrestled and studied and prayed, and sought to follow Jesus with all of their hearts….

Imagine a movement where church meetings and denominational meetings never waste anybody’s time…. Imagine a movement that when leaders gather together, it is to learn and to receive vision and to mentor…and to be accountable and to encourage one another….

Imagine that when leaders get together they talk about things like: How do you reach people who don’t know Jesus so they can get to know Jesus? How can you worship better? How can you help the under-resourced people more effectively? How do you make disciples? How do you do justice?….

Can God not do that? Has the Holy Spirit lost His power?

As we…have talked and prayed about a new denominational entity, the idea, the prayer was that it be not just a denominational alternative — [but] that there might be a structure that could be a vehicle and a servant of a movement….

The job of a denomination is the serve the local church, not the other way around…. And the idea is…real simple: to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Because the church really has one job — to make disciples, followers, of Jesus.

Streaming video of Mr. Ortberg’s full address is below. A downloadable mp3 audio file is here (18 MB).

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Related articles and information
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